Food & Drink

Salted Nutella Macarons

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Four years ago, I posted my French Macarons recipe.  Today, I wanted to do an update on new techniques and tricks that I’ve accrued over the past four years of maracon making. The one thing I didn’t change?  The salted Nutella buttercream filling.  To this day, it’s still my favorite buttercream.  It’s fluffy, airy, and the salt creates such a nice complement to the sweetness from the Nutella.

So the first thing I changed was the way I measured the ingredients.  Now, instead of measuring them using measuring cups, I weigh them.  I have found that by weighing them, I eliminate one thing that can really mess up your macarons – improper proportions of ingredients.  If you don’t have a scale, I highly recommend buying one.  They’re about $10 and they are pretty handy, especially when you are dealing with more finicky recipes.

The second thing that I changed was simply the way I made them.  A while back, while I was deep in the macaron Youtube binge, I found that there are three main ways of making them – the French method (where you beat aged egg whites with sugar then fold it with the almond flour/powdered sugar mixture), the Italian meringue method (where you cook a sugar syrup then beat in the egg whites, then fold in the almond flour/powdered sugar), and the Swiss meringue method (where you cook the sugar and egg whites over a double boiler, and then mix in the almond flour/powdered sugar).  Apparently, both the Italian Meringue and Swiss Meringue method are said to be more reliable in terms of giving you a consistent result.  Additionally, the meringue method can give you good results even in “bad macaron conditions” – such as high humidity.  Today, I’m going to show you how I made macarons using the Swiss Meringue method.

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Salted Nutella Macarons

  • Servings: 30 macarons
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Ingredients

Macarons

  • 100g egg whites (~from 3 large eggs, double check to make sure)
  • 100g granulated sugar
  • 100g almond flour
  • 100g powdered sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • Gel food coloring

Salted Nutella Buttercream

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup Nutella or hazelnut spread
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Over a double boiler, whisk together egg whites and granulated sugar until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is frothy, about 2 minutes.  Transfer this to a stand mixer or a handheld mixer with a whisk attachment and beat on medium-high.  Put in a pinch of salt and cream of tartar.  Beat until stiff peaks, about 3-5 minutes.  If you want to color your macarons, add a little bit of gel food coloring at this point and beat for 5 seconds only.
  3. In a food processor, combine the almond flour and powdered sugar.  Pulse 5x.  Sift the mixture into a bowl,  Discard any remaining chunks that cannot be sifted.
  4. Carefully put the almond flour & powdered sugar mixture into the egg white mixture bowl.  Beat on medium-low for 10 seconds.  Use a rubber spatula to fully incorporate the mixture.  Do the figure 8 test by scooping some batter up with your spatula and draw the number 8.  If the batter does not break, it’s done!  Make sure you do not overmix.
  5. Pour macaron mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a round tip.  Pipe out 1-inch circles on a baking sheet.  Bang the pan on the countertop a couple times to release any air bubbles.  Let it sit out to dry until the top forms a skin, about 20 minutes.  You should be able to touch the top without anything sticking to your finger.  When it’s dry, it’s ready to bake.
  6. Bake for 13-14 minutes on the middle rack, rotating the pan halfway.
  7. While the macarons are baking, prepare the buttercream.  In a stand mixer or handheld mixer, beat together softened butter and Nutella until creamy.  Add powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
  8. To assemble – pair cooled macaron shells of similar size together.  Turn all of them flat-side up.  Using a pastry bag fitted with a round tip, pipe out a nickel-sized amount of buttercream.  Sandwich the two shells together and press gently so the buttercream spreads to the edges.  Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to serve.

Recipe notes:

  • The recipe calls for a double boiler.  If you don’t have one at home, no worries.  Simply fill a pot with about 1 inch of water and heat until simmering.  Place a heatproof bowl (glass or metal), and you have a double boiler!
  • If you don’t have a food processor, you can skip processing the sugar and almond flour.  Just know that the tops might not be as smooth.
  • I love my Silpat, but in my many attempts of making Silpat work with macarons, it just doesn’t work.  My shells always end up sticking to the mat.  So I just stick to parchment paper.

travel

San Francisco in 24 Hours

Over President’s Day weekend, I took a solo trip back to the motherland – California.  The main purpose of this trip was to visit my siblings and my adorable nephews (whom I lovingly call my birth control).  But prior to meeting up with my family, I spent less than 24 hours with my friends from college.

One of my good friends from college has been living in San Francisco for the past 6 years.  I’d always crash with her when I’m in town.  Since I’ve been to all the touristy spots, I told her to take me to places that I wouldn’t normally go.  The following day was packed full of good food, plants, and activities.  Granted, it’s all a bit fuzzy to me now, since I was sleep deprived from staying up late.  But here are the highlights:

Mac Daddy – $$
1453 18th St
San Francisco, CA 94107

San Francisco Hometown Creamery – $$
1290 9th Ave
San Francisco, CA 94122

I arrived at SFO around 7:30 PM (which is 10:30 PM on EST), so I was ready for bed.  My friends and I visited Mac Daddy, which specializes in various mac and cheese.  Although I think the real standout was the ribs.  We finished the meal with ice cream at San Francisco Hometown Creamery.  They make everything in small batches and on site.  We arrived just shy of closing, so there weren’t a ton of flavors to choose from.  I believe I had the banana flavor, which was surprisingly very delicious.  But as you can tell from my bloodshot eyes, I’m ready for bed.

Neighbor Bakehouse – $$
2343 3rd St #100
San Francisco, CA 94107

My friend lives in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco, which I really like since it’s less developed for residential real estate and more for warehouses and businesses, so there’s less traffic, especially on weekends.  On Sunday morning, we visited one of my favorite bakeries in San Francisco – Neighbor Bakehouse.  It seems like most of their baked goods are viennoiseries, basically like croissants and puff pastries.  We got a variety of their pastries.  My favorites are the Guava & Cream Cheese Pastelito and the Ham & Cheese Morning Bun.

Philz Coffee – $
1258 Minnesota St
San Francisco, CA 94107

Ok.  I know that Philz is expanding and apparently it’s even in the east coast now.  But is any trip to SF complete without Mint Mojito?

Flora Grubb Gardens – $$
1634 Jerrold Ave
San Francisco, CA 94124

One symptom of your late 20s is without a doubt the love of plants and how a trip to a nursery can make you unbelievably happy.  We spent a good hour exploring the Flora Grubb Gardens, which is a decent-sized nursery with plenty of seating (and a coffee bar).

Lands End Lookout – free
680 Point Lobos Ave
San Francisco, CA 94121

My friend told me to prepare to hike, but really it was mostly walking on a wide, muddy trail.  I can’t believe in all my visits to San Francisco, I’ve never been to Lands End.  In my opinion, it has some of the best views of the city and Golden Gate Bridge.  Although it was so windy, so while we were on the trail, the trees blocked a significant part of the wind.

That’s wraps up my 22 hours in San Francisco!  What are some non-touristy spots in SF that you love?  Share in the comments below!

Philly

The Goat’s Beard

The Goat’s Beard – $$
4201 Main St
Philadelphia, PA 19127

If you ask me or my husband what our favorite meal is, it’s brunch.  I often feel like kindred spirits with Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation.  When I’m hungry, I just want to say “just give me all the bacon and eggs you have”.  With brunch being our favorite meal, we decided to check out The Goat’s Beard in Manayunk after church.

The aesthetic is very on brand with the whole farm-to-table philosophy they have.  We ordered the “TGB Burger” and the “Smoked Brisket Hash”.  The burger was good, the meat was cooked perfectly and the buttery brioche bun was the perfect blanket to the burger.  But the real knockout was the brisket.  First off, they gave us so much brisket.  It was cooked very tender and the side potatoes were delicious.

 

Food & Drink

Sea Salt Scotch Truffles

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Holy moly, this is the truffle to end all truffles.  You guys.  These truffles are rich, chocolatey, and has the perfect amount of booziness.  What’s not to like?  This recipe combines really simple ingredients, requires very little hands-on time, and looks so, so good.  They make great holiday gifts or bring them to your next holiday party and be everybody’s new BFF.

I believe the secret to this recipe is using really good alcohol.  I’ve had alcoholic desserts before that used subpar alcohol, and it always had this “burning” aftertaste at the bottom of my throat.  I think if you use good Scotch in this recipe, it’ll be so velvety smooth and will add just the right amount of kick to this recipe.

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Sea Salt Scotch Truffles

  • Servings: 40-50 truffle balls
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb dark chocolate, chopped (I use an entire bar of 72% dark chocolate Pound Plus from Trader Joe’s.)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup Scotch
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Topping Ideas

  • Coarse ground sea salt
  • Milk chocolate
  • Sprinkles
  • Cocoa powder

Method

  1. In a large glass (or metal) bowl, combine dark chocolate, heavy cream, and butter.  Place bowl over a simmering pot of water (alternatively use a double boiler).  Stir until melted and smooth.  Remove from heat.
  2. Stir in Scotch and sea salt.  Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours (or until firm).
  3. Using a small cookie scoop (approximately 2 tsp), scoop out the truffle mixture.  Roll the ball between your palms to make them round.  Roll them in the toppings of your choice.  Refrigerate for another 30 min to set the toppings.

Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
Philly

Cake

Cake – $$
8501 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19118

Since moving to Philadelphia a year ago, a lot of friends traveling through the city have asked me for recommendations.  My response is usually “uhhhhhh idk”.  It’s not that I don’t want to be helpful, but I’m a creature of habit and I tend to frequent the same 5 spots over and over.  I’m trying to be a little bit more adventurous and try more things.  I’m hoping this section of the blog will be a hub that will turn into a Philly Guide – Annie edition.

If nothing else, it’ll always have pretty pictures :)

First up – Cake.  My favorite neighborhood in Philadelphia is hands down, Chestnut Hill.  It’s super duper cute and quaint.  It has tree-lined, cobblestone streets with boutique shops along both sides.  One storefront always stood out to me – Cake.  It’s not necessarily the name that stood out, but the fact that the entire store is basically a greenhouse.  I looked it up and discovered that it’s a brunch/bakery eatery and I quickly put it on my list.

Today, on my husband’s 29th birthday, we finally visited.  The greenery inside is very inviting, and the food is top notch.  We also finished our brunch with a peanut butter chocolate tart, which was super rich and a perfect end to a fabulous meal.

Food & Drink

Instant Pot Mac & Cheese

HELLLLLOOOOO triumphant return! Typing this is so surreal. I guess I should rewind and take you back to the beginning. Blogging, especially blogging about food, is not new to me. I started blogging in 2014 as a stress relief when I was in grad school. It was my way of channeling my creative energy in a non-academic way. I kept at it off-and-on after I graduated, and in 2017, I stopped. I went back to school and did another graduate program at the University of Pennsylvania. Guess what? They make you earn that Ivy League diploma. I basically had no time to do anything creative. Did it drive me insane? Absolutely. Now, I’m on the cusp of starting my career, so I thought this is the perfect time to start over. Thanks for joining me :) Now let’s get to the good stuff.

If I got $1 for every time I tell someone to buy an Instant Pot, I wouldn’t need to rely on the lottery to win big. I love my Instant Pot so much (almost as much as my husband and my dog, combined). This past summer, it got insanely hot here in Philadelphia, so I cooked the majority of our meals in the Instant Pot. (I’m sorry, but I just can’t eat cold salads all day every day).

Now that fall is officially here and it’s sweater weather, I thought it is high time to reintroduce the mac and cheese, Instant Pot edition.

Since I’m “adulting”, I really shouldn’t rely on Kraft Mac & Cheese when I want a warm bowl of gooey cheesy goodness (although if you made some for me, I’d eat the whole thing). I really love this recipe because there’s nothing I hate more than standing over a hot boiling pot of pasta. The Instant Pot can perfectly cook my pasta. When it is done, mix in cheese and milk, tada! Dinner is served (or breakfast, lunch, and dessert. It’s that good).

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Instant Pot Mac & Cheese

  • Servings: 6-8
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Ingredients

  • 1 lb pasta (I used small elbow macaroni, but you can use whatever you have!)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 8 oz mild cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 oz cream cheese
  • 2 oz parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 1/2 cup milk (or half & half)

Method

  1. Turn IP on to ‘Sauté’ function. Melt butter and sauté garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn off IP.
  2. Add water and salt. Make sure the water just covers the pasta. If it doesn’t, add more water until all the pasta is covered. Set IP to Manuel (high) for 4 minutes. (Do 5 minutes if you are using a larger pasta, like penne).
  3. Do a quick release when pasta is finished cooking. Drain if there is excess water. Stir in cheese and milk until pasta is thick and creamy.

Food & Drink

Stuffed Shells

DSC_3693This is my all-time favorite potluck dish.  You can do the majority of the prep ahead of time if you wish.  It is such a crowd pleaser.  I’ve yet to bring this to an event and come home with leftovers.  This recipe will yield two 13×9 dishes.  Make this for your next potluck, and I guarantee you will receive so many compliments and recipe requests.

You can use your favorite pasta sauce, or reach for the jar pasta sauce in your pantry.  Just make sure it is a sauce that you absolutely love, since the ricotta-stuffed shells have a mild flavor and will take on the majority of the flavor from your pasta sauce.

A 12oz package of jumbo shells will have anywhere between 40-45 jumbo shells.  I’ve accounted 3-5 for casualties during the stuffing or boiling process.  I usually will eat 3 shells with a side salad, and I’m happy as a clam.

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Servings: 10-12

Ingredients
– 12oz package jumbo shells
– 6 cups marinara sauce
– 2 (15oz) container of ricotta (or homemade)
– 2 eggs
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
– 3 tbsp parsley flakes

Method
– Bring 4 quarts of water to a rolling boil.  Cook jumbo shells at half the time as stated on the directions.  Drain and let cool.
– In a large bowl, whisk eggs with a fork.  Mix in ricotta until well-combined.  Add salt, mozzarella cheese, and 2 tbsp of the parsley flakes.  Mix until well combined.
– In the two 13×9 casserole dish, spread 1 cup of marinara sauce on the bottom of each casserole dish.  Take each cooled jumbo shell, spoon the ricotta mixture into the shell.  Place the shells filling-side up in the casserole dish.  Repeat until you used up all your shells and your casserole dishes are filled.
– Spoon the remaining marinara sauce over the shells.  Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of parsley flakes over the sauce.  Cover the casserole dish with foil.
– Preheat the oven to 350F.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes.